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  • Helen

Two Marathons - no sprints!

In London last Sunday I watched two races where both runners and spectators were doing their best to improve the future of human life.

First, we spent an hour or so waiting for our friend Rafa to come along the Embankment just prior to finishing the London Marathon with a PB of 3 hours 4 minutes. Congratulations, Rafa!

The wide variety of runners was absolutely amazing: – ages, genders, nationalities, heights, lifestyles (lots of vegan runners!), levels of fitness, energy, seriousness and cheerfulness, courage, determination and discouragement. Great spectator sport! The crowd-runner interactions are equally fascinating – some runners seem entirely unaware of the crowd clapping and shouting encouragement, others absolutely lapping it up and raising their hands to encourage more cheers – and the fun runners playing it for laughs all the way!

But there’s a much more serious side to the marathon and I was more aware of it than ever this year. Our experience with our grandson’s various health challenges in the last year has made us newly knowledgeable about the extraordinary efforts – both medical and voluntary - to support people with a wide spectrum of health problems. Marathon charity runners are some of them. They represent hundreds of organisations who work with sufferers while researching and fighting against every disease and disability imaginable.

Family and friends who run marathons have made us more familiar with the huge amount of personal training and regular discipline plus final organisation required to get one person to the start line. It is impressive. Spectators like me get only a tiny insight into the breadth and depth of human determination to fight disease and other situations that blight the lives of women and men and children we love, and others whom we know little about. The stories of runners on the TV coverage demonstrate how personally affected and passionate many of them are about the causes they run for.

Mingling among the crowds of marathon spectators were placards from the other serious cause I had come to support. Last weekend saw participants in a different race occupying parts of Westminster right next to where the marathon runners loped or limped or straggled by. The Big One - a four day gathering organised by Extinction Rebellion(XR) and other supporters of two hundred other environmental causes - gathered in Parliament Square and along the railings of the Houses of Parliament.

As I moved among the various groups, I talked with serious campaigners who have stepped back from their civil disobedience tactics and are concentrating on partnership with other environmental organisations in a new campaign. The targets of their campaign now are what they call ‘The Pillars of Power’: the justice system, the finance system, the fossil fuel industry and the media. Their goal is to persuade these groups to change those aspects of their behaviour which ignore the need for serious changes in the race against the extinction of the human race.

One report said that over 60,000 people participated in ‘The Big One’ over four days. It is clear that, just like the participants in the marathon, they represent hundreds of thousands of other people who are contributing their best efforts to win the race against human extinction. Their failure would be all our failures.

But I do wonder...what will happen first? - a cure for cancer or a national government elected by a majority of voters committed to taking climate change seriously?

Few of us can contribute to the first race, all of us can contribute to the second.

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